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Air-Asia will buy an extra 100 Airbus A320neo jets (a more fuel efficient jet), taking its record-breaking order to 300 planes, according to a report in GulfNews.

The report, based on an unnamed source, said the deal would make the Malaysia-based low-cost airline one of the world’s largest carriers.

AirAsia and Airbus announced a USD$18.2 billion deal for 200 planes at the Paris Air Show last month, shattering aviation records for the largest ever airline order. The additional order takes the list price of the contract to a staggering $27 billion.

The bumper order highlights Airbus’ growing lead over Boeing and throws the spotlight on AirAsia’s aggressive growth plans at a time when high oil prices and an uncertain global economy are clouding the outlook for travel demand.

Analysts expect the extended order to drive AirAsia’s expansion as it competes with short-haul carriers such as India’s IndiGo, Singapore’s Tiger Airways and Australia’s Jetstar in the Asia-Pacific region, the fastest growing in the world.

Kunal Sinha, an aerospace and defence expert with the Frost & Sullivan consultancy was quoted saying AirAsia’s replacement was long overdue, hence not aggressive.

The new fleet is likely to be used to link Southeast Asia to India and China.

Boeing yesterday said it expected 33,500 new airplanes to be delivered by 2030, driven by growth in India and elsewhere in Asia.

AirAsia plans to list its operations in Thailand and Indonesia this year as it expands in those markets and is in talks to open a hub in Singapore, its chief executive Tony Fernandes has said.

AirAsia, which flies to 63 destinations in more than 20 countries, has 90 planes currently, almost all single-aisle Airbus A320s. Besides the 300 Airbus A320neo deal, it has another 75 Airbus aircraft already in the pipeline.

“Though we look aggressive, we have expanded very cautiously,” Fernandes told Reuters this week. “But I have always said this airline is worth at least 500 aircraft.”

According to International Air Transport Association (IATA) data, United Continental had the largest passenger fleet of 737 planes at the end of 2010, followed by Delta Airlines with 722, American Airlines with 618 and Lufthansa with 427.

Non-IATA member Southwest Airlines, the only low-cost carrier currently in the top five, has around 550 planes. — Source: GulfNews

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